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Meet Darinee Suttajit

Today we’d like to introduce you to Darinee Suttajit.

Darinee, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
As a teenager, I was too scared to challenge myself, academically or physically. My self-doubt was greater than my goals. I didn’t believe I was smart enough. I didn’t like the skin I was in. I didn’t have an adult mentor that I felt safe to talk to. I felt completely lost… I am happy to say, the person who I used to be is completely gone!

Opportunities will come when you least expect it, and your entire outlook on life will change for the better. Five years ago, I was assigned to recruit Asian girls for the Girl Scouts. I heard about a small community of Karenni (Myanmar) refugees in Houston. I educated myself about the Karenni and learned that there were many Karenni refugee camps in Northern Thailand.

As a Thai American, I was unaware that these camps existed. I decided to take the challenge and reached out to the Asian American Family Services (officially closed) for assistance. They were excited to have Girl Scouting for the Karenni girls but warned me that the girls had many struggles adjusting to their American lifestyle.

At our first meeting, the girls stared at me and spoke in their native language the entire time. They didn’t want to participate in what I had to offer, mostly because I was a stranger to them. I was drained and felt disconnected, but I showed up every single week.

In high school, I always wanted a positive role model to guide me through my adolescent years. This was my chance! Thanks to the support of my friends and community influencers, the girls were exposed to resources that would help transition them into their American lifestyle.

I had a financial aid advisor from Houston Community College explain to the girls about managing money. I bought used SAT books to help the girls prepare for the SAT. I started a clothing donation for the entire Karenni apartment complex. I did what I could to make the Karenni feel extraordinary, and not let the word “refugee” limit them from living their best life.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Easy is overrated. IBM founder Thomas J. Watson said, “If you want to be successful faster, you must double your rate of failure. Success lies on the far side of failure.” That quote encapsulates my story. My success in life and business has come at a great price. I have had to fail my way to the top knowing that life does not always go as planned. Every day I take focused actions, as I march towards my goals. And yes, sometimes I feel fear, and doubt but I push through. Theodore Roosevelt asserts, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” And that is my life motto.

For instances working with the Karenni girls was challenging because of the huge cultural and language barrier. I thought the relationship I would form with the Karenni girls would be immediate, but it was more disconnected. One day, a staff told me about a website (www.karennirefugees.com). The website was specifically about the Karenni. It contained information and explanation such as housing with neither electricity nor water, no advanced education after high school, and limited healthcare.

I realized I was not open-minded about their culture and how much trauma the Karenni had to go through. I stayed up researching about Myanmar and how people were fleeing to Thailand for assistance. At our next meeting, I decided not to plan any activities for the girls. I brought my laptop and showed them the website. I asked them about the validity of the website.

When one of the girls said, “I remember this spot when we were in the refugee camp,” I knew this was the real deal. The girls told me how they were preparing to leave Thailand to come to America with only a plastic bag, no other luggage. One girl mentioned her parents were locked out of the hotel room because they didn’t know how to use the key to open the door. The girls’ adversity was my drive to keep going.

As a leader, I’ve learned that you have to listen more and talk less. You have to get them excited about themselves before they get excited about you. That was my blueprint to build confidence in the Karenni girls. This was a humbling conversation and one that I will never forget with the Karenni girls.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Hammer Time Productions story. Tell us more about the business.
Hammer Time Productions is a vibrant growing business. I am an event coordinator with a specialty in personal photography. I help busy executives and individuals capture their “wow” moments for posterity. While other photographers are concern with snapping a picture, I tell a story with every frame I capture. In 2018, my photos were featured on Houston Chronicles and on ESPN’s The Undefeated website.

Another arm on my business focuses on event planning. My creativity and versatile skills produce memorable events. I have successfully put together conferences and workshops for speakers and authors. I enjoy challenges and can adapt to any environment. Last year, I coordinated my first charity fishing tournament and toy drive for a fishing apparel. The local charity received many generous donations and toys, while the men and women had a blast on the water.

As you heard my story about how I became passionate about helping the growth of the Karenni community in Houston, that’s how I pour my love on people. I will bring out the uniqueness in anyone or anything. The littlest things do matter to me because it is the foundation that will lead to greater results.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I will have to agree with Bruce Springsteen who observed, “When it comes to luck, you make your own.” My life is a testament to the power of hard work and diligence. I have consistently and persistently worked hard on myself, my mindset, and my business systems which has accounted for my success up to this point. A mentor of mine Brain Tracy said, “Luck is predictable; the harder you work, the luckier you get”
While in college, I attended a student leadership retreat at the University of Houston where Jonathan Sprinkles was speaking. His story resonated with me. He was a student leader on campus with a low GPA and loss his father in his teenage years. He failed forward, failed fast, and showed resilience. When I saw Mr. Sprinkles on stage, I felt his pain because I was a student leader struggling with my low GPA and my mother had passed a few months before my graduation. Mr. Sprinkles was my confirmation that it’s still possible to live my best life. Sure enough, I AM living my best life!

In 2013, Mr. Sprinkles was seeking a local assistant to join his team. At that moment, I did what I could to show Mr. Sprinkles how badly I wanted that position. Fortunately, I was invited to be a part of his organization. He is a brilliant leader and supportive mentor who has shaped me to see business differently. I don’t consider meeting him was luck. It was God’s timing.

I believe when you’re asked to get out from your comfort zone, everything will fall into place. Believe in yourself and what you’ve been searching for will always find you.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Hammer Time Productions. Tell us more about the business.
Houston is a great vibrant city. The diversity of the city calls for many area of needs. That’s where I come in…I’m the problem solver.

As you heard my story about how I became passionate about helping the growth of the Karenni community in Houston, I take advantage of what is given to me. I challenge myself and will bring out the uniqueness in anything or anyone.
From photography to event planning, I help leaders and organizations provide the best customer experience for their events. Tell me about your vision(s), and I’ll execute it!

 

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
While in college, I attended a student leadership retreat at the University of Houston where Jonathan Sprinkles was speaking. His story resonated with me. He was a student leader on campus with a low GPA and loss his father in his teenage years. He failed forward, failed fast, and showed resilience. When I saw Mr. Sprinkles on stage, I felt his pain because I was a student leader struggling with my low GPA and my mother had passed a few months before my graduation. He was my confirmation that it’s still possible to live my best life. Sure enough, I AM living my best life!

In 2013, Mr. Sprinkles was seeking a local assistant to join his team. At that moment, I did what I could to show Mr. Sprinkles how badly I wanted that position. Fortunately, I was invited to be a part of his organization. He is a brilliant leader and supportive mentor who has shaped me to see business differently. I don’t consider meeting him was luck. It was God’s timing.

Contact Info:

  • Email: darinee@me.com

Image Credit:
Jonathan Sprinkles, Nikki De Los Reyes

Getting in touch: VoyageHouston is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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